Max Jacob
Max Jacob in 1934
Max Jacob in 1934
Born(1876-07-12)12 July 1876
Quimper, Finistère, Brittany, France
Died5 March 1944(1944-03-05) (aged 67)
Drancy Deportation Camp, France
Pen nameLéon David
Morven le Gaëlique
Literary movementSchool of Paris
Max Jacob, by Modigliani, 1916

Max Jacob (French: [maks ʒakɔb]; 12 July 1876 – 5 March 1944) was a French poet, painter, writer, and critic.

Life and career

After spending his childhood in Quimper, Brittany, he enrolled in the Paris Colonial School, which he left in 1897 for an artistic career. He was one of the first friends Pablo Picasso made in Paris. They met in the summer of 1901, and it was Jacob who helped the young artist learn French.[1] Later, on the Boulevard Voltaire, he shared a room with Picasso,[2] who remained a lifelong friend (and was included in his artwork Three Musicians). Jacob introduced him to Guillaume Apollinaire, who in turn introduced Picasso to Georges Braque. He would become close friends with Jean Cocteau, Jean Hugo, Christopher Wood and Amedeo Modigliani, who painted his portrait in 1916. He also befriended and encouraged the artist Romanin, otherwise known as French politician, and future Resistance leader Jean Moulin. Moulin's famous nom de guerre Max is presumed to be selected in honor of Jacob.

Jacob, who was Jewish, claimed to have had a vision of Christ in 1909, and converted to Catholicism. He was hopeful that this conversion would alleviate his homosexual tendencies.[3]

Max Jacob is regarded as an important link between the symbolists and the surrealists, as can be seen in his prose poems Le cornet à dés (The Dice Box, 1917 – the 1948 Gallimard edition was illustrated by Jean Hugo) and in his paintings, exhibitions of which were held in New York City in 1930 and 1938.

His writings include the novel Saint Matorel (1911), the free verses Le laboratoire central (1921), and La défense de Tartuffe (1919), which expounds his philosophical and religious attitudes.

The famous psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan attributed the quote "The truth is always new" to Jacob.[4]


Having moved outside of Paris in May 1936, to settle in Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire, Loiret, Max Jacob was arrested on 24 February 1944 by the Gestapo, and interned at Orléans prison (prisoner #15872).[5] Jewish by birth, Jacob's brother Gaston had been previously arrested in January 1944, and deported to the concentration camp Auschwitz along with their sister Myrthe-Lea; her husband was also deported by the Nazis at this time. A cousin, Andrée Jacob, survived by living under an assumed name and worked in the Resistance movement Noyautage des administrations publiques.[6] Following his incarceration at Orléans, Max was then transferred to Drancy internment camp from where he was to be transported in the next convoy to Auschwitz. However, said to be suffering from bronchial pneumonia, Max Jacob died on 5 March in the infirmary of La Cité de la Muette, a former housing block which served as the internment camp known as Drancy.[7] Andrée Jacob, a cousin of the Jacob siblings, worked in the Noyautage des administrations publiques

First interred in Ivry after the war ended, his remains were transferred in 1949 by his artist friends Jean Cassou and René Iché (who sculpted the tomb of the poet) to the cemetery at Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire in the Loiret département.[6]


As well as his nom d'état civil, or regular name, Jacob worked under at least two pseudonyms, Léon David and Morven le Gaëlique.

In popular culture

German actor Udo Kier plays Jacob in the 2004 film Modigliani. In the 2006 film Monsieur Max, which deals with the life of Jacob from the First World War until his death, he was played by Jean-Claude Brialy; this was Brialy's last film. In the 2013 Spanish film La banda Picasso, Jacob is played by Lionel Abelanski.[8] T. R. Knight portrays Jacob in the 2018 season of the television series Genius, which focuses on the life and career of Pablo Picasso.


See also


  1. ^ McNeese, Tim (2006). Pablo Picasso. Infobase. p. 33. ISBN 1438106874.
  2. ^ Jacob, Max (1991). Green, Maria (ed.). Hesitant fire: selected prose of Max Jacob. U of Nebraska Press. p. xvi. ISBN 0803225741.
  3. ^ "Max Jacob". 21 March 2020.
  4. ^ Lacan, Jacques (2008) My Teaching, Verso Press.
  5. ^ "Les Collections".
  6. ^ a b "Marie-Jo Bonnet raconte les résistantes oubliées". February 2013.
  7. ^ Caws, Mary Ann (2004). "Max Jacob 1876–1944". Yale Anthology of 20th-century French Poetry. Yale University Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-0-300-10010-5.
  8. ^ Holland, Jonathan (5 February 2013). "Picasso's Gang". Variety. Retrieved 17 March 2022.